D&D General Flipping Race And Background Altogether

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I have to say, I really hate the "magical elf game" argument to explain away anything that doesn't make sense.
It’s a really odd position to take. These things over here that are wildly unrealistic are good and fine and don’t talk about them...but those things...oh...those things over there that are wildly unrealistic are bad. It literally comes down to preference. Nothing more. “It breaks my suspension of disbelief” isn’t really an argument when the same game has a massive pile of things that also “break suspension of disbelief”. It’s a non-argument. “I don’t like it” is more accurate and less silly of a complaint. If you wanted any sense of “realism” whatsoever you wouldn’t be playing D&D. It’s like eating a cake then complaining you don’t like cake.
Unless there is a specific reason for it, even a fantasy world should follow real world rules. Now, those reasons can change a lot of stuff, but I still the reason needs to be stated.
It’s heroic fantasy. Halflings can be just as strong as goliaths. There. Done. The list of things that just are and don’t have explanations in D&D is quite long.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

MGibster

Legend
It’s a really odd position to take. These things over here that are wildly unrealistic are good and fine and don’t talk about them...but those things...oh...those things over there that are wildly unrealistic are bad. It literally comes down to preference. Nothing more.
It's not really odd as it's done quite frequently. And you're right, it literally just comes down to preference. Why this bothers you so much I do not understand. It's okay if people have difference preferences.
 

MGibster

Legend
It just so happens that I've thought race in D&D has been largely unimportant for many years now. In my experience, whether you bring a Dragonborn, Halfling, Human, Elf, or Goliath to my game it's not going to make any significant difference in the campaign nor have I seen player race make a difference in campaigns I've participated in as a player. If someone came to a game I was running with a Halfling character with a 20 Strength I'd just shrug my shoulders and we'd all have a good time. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. If WotC wants to go in a direction where character race matters any less, eh, what of it? It's not really going to change the game in a significant manner.
 

guachi

Adventurer
I'm trying to think of any long running campaigns (six months or more) I've been in as a player or DM where race or background didn't matter. I can't think of any.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
It just so happens that I've thought race in D&D has been largely unimportant for many years now. In my experience, whether you bring a Dragonborn, Halfling, Human, Elf, or Goliath to my game it's not going to make any significant difference in the campaign nor have I seen player race make a difference in campaigns I've participated in as a player. If someone came to a game I was running with a Halfling character with a 20 Strength I'd just shrug my shoulders and we'd all have a good time. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. If WotC wants to go in a direction where character race matters any less, eh, what of it? It's not really going to change the game in a significant manner.

That's your opinion, but unfortunately it's certainly not the one at our tables, because race matters a lot for roleplaying. The lizard-man ranger at our BG-DiA is a joy to play with BECAUSE he is a lizard man (and much less for any other reason), with extremely strange customs, and players have only now (after 50 sessions) figured out that she is actually female. The two halflings are perpetually frustrated by the horrible taste of food in Avernus and spend their time trying to get other things to eat, even getting drunk before a nasty assassination attempt in the war tent of a Devil Prince. and my Half-Siren Demigoddess who never speaks, only sings because of her ancestry is a joy to play, as is are the medusa or the minotaur in our Odyssey of the Dragonlords. Even the plain human in the group is really interesting since he is the only one of his kind, and the less human in the group find him funny.

So, by all means, you can play humans with funny hats all you want in your campaigns, but fantasy races are an absolute staple of most fantasy world and have been in D&D for almost 50 years. So yes, it changes the game for extremely bad reasons, because once more this is not about the immense majority of fantasy races but about two specific examples that people always bring to the table, forgetting that there are many other things which are debatable in D&D history and which have nothing to do with race, but more with culture or faction.

So yes, due to WotC trying their best to weather a storm that has little to do with the hobby, races have been technically less important for a while now, but some of us still do roleplay about them, and roleplaying is the point of the game.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
It's not really odd as it's done quite frequently. And you're right, it literally just comes down to preference. Why this bothers you so much I do not understand. It's okay if people have difference preferences.

It's also strange that some of the people wanting a 3 ft halfing with Goliath strange use the "it's fantasy, dummy, it has no basis in reality" argument when at least some of them wouldn't buy it to justify an all-evil race, and those who say "it's fantasy, dummy" to justifiy all-evil races wouldn't all, in turn, accept to envision a race of small or even diminutive, super-strong people.

I understand people embracing both (well, maybe not the super-strong being called hallings since they could a distinct race, but that's just the label, not the concept) or rejecting both, but I fail to understand the logic of being on both side of the debate at the same time.
 

AnotherGuy

Adventurer
It's also strange that some of the people wanting a 3 ft halfing with Goliath strange use the "it's fantasy, dummy, it has no basis in reality" argument when at least some of them wouldn't buy it to justify an all-evil race, and those who say "it's fantasy, dummy" to justifiy all-evil races wouldn't all, in turn, accept to envision a race of small or even diminutive, super-strong people.

I understand people embracing both (well, maybe not the super-strong being called hallings since they could a distinct race, but that's just the label, not the concept) or rejecting both, but I fail to understand the logic of being on both side of the debate at the same time.
The short answer to your question is Reality is great, until it limits Options
I personally do not subscribe to that motto.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
It's also strange that some of the people wanting a 3 ft halfing with Goliath strange use the "it's fantasy, dummy, it has no basis in reality" argument when at least some of them wouldn't buy it to justify an all-evil race, and those who say "it's fantasy, dummy" to justifiy all-evil races wouldn't all, in turn, accept to envision a race of small or even diminutive, super-strong people.

I wouldn't speak about the first ones, but for the second, it's called verisimilitude and conformance to the genre. When you have absolute evil in fantasy, there is a reason for it. You do not have to like it that way, you can play something else entirely, but the very principles of D&D as an epic game are rooted in cosmic-level conflict, and it's usually good vs. evil. Some have tried different principles, for example Law vs. Chaos, but for example in Moorcock Chaos more or less equals evil and Law is way fairer. And as long as you have these cosmic forces of evil then you can have mostly evil races, whether it's the drows corrupted by Lolth or the orcs corrupted by their evil gods (5e PH: "The evil deities who CREATED other races, though, MADE these races to serve them."). As for having super strong small guys (because magic), why not, you could certainly create a race that way, but once more this is not the way the existing races are described in the game. And there is exactly ZERO reason to change that, except, once more, the aversion to "unequal" fantasy races as a concept because of exactly 2 races for some people who absolutely want explain to the whole world how some very limited stereotypes must have influenced them badly and should be suppressed all along with everything even remotely related to them (probably the whole game, actually) - even though it's patently untrue in the vast majority of the world.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I wouldn't speak about the first ones, but for the second, it's called verisimilitude and conformance to the genre. When you have absolute evil in fantasy, there is a reason for it. You do not have to like it that way, you can play something else entirely, but the very principles of D&D as an epic game are rooted in cosmic-level conflict, and it's usually good vs. evil. Some have tried different principles, for example Law vs. Chaos, but for example in Moorcock Chaos more or less equals evil and Law is way fairer. And as long as you have these cosmic forces of evil then you can have mostly evil races, whether it's the drows corrupted by Lolth or the orcs corrupted by their evil gods (5e PH: "The evil deities who CREATED other races, though, MADE these races to serve them."). As for having super strong small guys (because magic), why not, you could certainly create a race that way,

I think that you'd be on the "the gods created races as they saw fit, so they can be whatever the GM wants" side. What you object is halfing as being superstrong when the lore doesn't align. You wouldn't object to 3 ft gnomes created by the God of Deceiving Appearances to have a STR bonus and inborn proficiency with the warhammer.


but once more this is not the way the existing races are described in the game.

I think it's a distinct problem. The way the races are described certainly must take those changes into account if they want to implement them. I have no problem with "all races are actually quite similar in range of abilities, but if say, every society is as fluid and mutable as the human ones they should drop the "humans are the new kids around the block with strange ideas like societal change being good and a tendancy to build lasting institutions to outlast their short individual lifespan" description.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think that you'd be on the "the gods created races as they saw fit, so they can be whatever the GM wants" side. What you object is halfing as being superstrong when the lore doesn't align. You wouldn't object to 3 ft gnomes created by the God of Deceiving Appearances to have a STR bonus and inborn proficiency with the warhammer.

Apart from the fact that I don't believe that the God of Deceiving Appearances would create a "strong race" :))), you are totally correct. For example, look at the Redcap, they are small and incredibly strong, with even a specific ability called "outsize strength", and it causes no problem of verisimilitude because they are Fey. So by all means, create a half-madcap race, small but with huge strength for its fey ancestry. :)

I think it's a distinct problem.

Unfortunately, the people who really have problems with the concept of fantasy races/species (which, again, is a very misguided view in my opinion) make a huge amalgam of it, and this is where the problem really lies. From potential (and I'm insisting on this, we never, ever have had this problem in France, where orcs and drows are cool and even uber-cool for everyone) stereotypes on exactly 2 fantasy races, they extrapolate huge problems with everything lined to race and just want to get rid of them, starting by slandering the whole thing and trying to minimise the impact that they have on the game.

The way the races are described certainly must take those changes into account if they want to implement them.

And my point is "why would we ever need to ?"

I have no problem with "all races are actually quite similar in range of abilities, but if say, every society is as fluid and mutable as the human ones they should drop the "humans are the new kids around the block with strange ideas like societal change being good and a tendancy to build lasting institutions to outlast their short individual lifespan" description.

And I have a problem with it. It's fantasy. People want to play more than what used to be called demi-humans and rejoice in playing goblins and minotaurs, etc. But at the same time, some people want to eradicate the differences, because otherwise it's "not fair", even though there is not even the slightest hint of real world stereotyping in there. People are even starting to hate the very word of "stereotype" while at the same time saying that they want to play a game which is literally built through stereotypes, class, race, background, cultural origin, all of these have been stereotypes since the beginning of the game and in their immense majority, they have harmed absolutely no-one.

Fantasy races have always been a part of fantasy, and the more diverse the better. If some people are happy removing them from their games, fine, but IMHO it just makes it way more bland and it's again a case of "let me tell you how to play your game"...
 

I think that you'd be on the "the gods created races as they saw fit, so they can be whatever the GM wants" side. What you object is halfing as being superstrong when the lore doesn't align. You wouldn't object to 3 ft gnomes created by the God of Deceiving Appearances to have a STR bonus and inborn proficiency with the warhammer.

I don't really have problem with a super strong small species or a surprisingly weak largeish species, but it strains credulity if all small species just happen to be super strong in a way that makes them equal to humans and all largeish species just happen to be weirdly weak so that they're not stronger than humans. Also, I think a small and weak species and small but surprisingly strong species are very different concepts. It think a big part of appeal of halflings to many is that they're kind of weak underdogs that need to deal with a world full of creatures larger and stronger than them. I don't think super halflings really fulfil the same niche.

I have always hated the concept of evil species and other blatantly offensive depictions D&D has, but I still really dislike this homogenisation that's happening. If I play a fantasy game I actually want fantasy species to be different from each other. They're not just human ethnicities, they're aliens. If I play a Star Wars game I want Wookiees to be stronger than Ewoks. That this homogenisation now includes height and weight is bordering parody.

Also, the opinion that ability scores don't really measure anything concrete was already featured in this thread. So why have them then? As long as ability scores exist, I want them to actually correlate to the fictional reality at least somewhat. If they don't, we have no need for them; the purpose of the rules is to act as mechanical representation of the game world; disassociated mechanics serve no purpose to me.
 
Last edited:

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
The short answer to your question is Reality is great, until it limits Options
I personally do not subscribe to that motto.
Well, options are great... until they undermine your sense of verisimilitude or even plausibility within the RPG genre you're playing. I don't think that's any less valid any approach.
For some of us, it's weird that a halfling can be as strong as a goliath for the same inputs in character creation. You'd think that a goliath, being so much bigger, would have an advantage in maxing out the game's strength options.
 

Scribe

Hero
Depends on what you're essentializing or what you consider essentializing. If essentializing portrays a character based on inherent traits, does that include size? Is saying that halflings are small essentializing? Is it essentializing to say that a pegasus has wings? Or that a medusa has snakey hair? They are inherent qualities. But is describing them really "essentializing"? Or if it is, is it doing so in a bad way?

Or is it really only problematic when we talk about their behavior or values as exhibiting some kind of inherent trait?
Its problematic when we say 'X is stronger than Y' despite that being a literal fact of existence across different species, which Halfings, and Golaiths are.

Different races (being distinct species in a Fantasy world and having ZERO RELATION TO REALITY), have different attributes. This is a simple concept, but some refuse to accept it.

If a player wants a Small character who has Strength 8, that is fine. If a player wants a Small character who has Strength 20, that is fine.

Let the player choose.

No. :D

For some of us, it's weird that a halfling can be as strong as a goliath for the same inputs in character creation. You'd think that a goliath, being so much bigger, would have an advantage in maxing out the game's strength options.

Exactly.
 

It just so happens that I've thought race in D&D has been largely unimportant for many years now. In my experience, whether you bring a Dragonborn, Halfling, Human, Elf, or Goliath to my game it's not going to make any significant difference in the campaign nor have I seen player race make a difference in campaigns I've participated in as a player. If someone came to a game I was running with a Halfling character with a 20 Strength I'd just shrug my shoulders and we'd all have a good time. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. If WotC wants to go in a direction where character race matters any less, eh, what of it? It's not really going to change the game in a significant manner.
This does make me wonder why we have it though.

If it doesn't matter, why does it matter?

It just seems a lot of work sometimes to include playable races in a setting and make them interesting beyond the basic...Mountains- dwarves live here, forest = elves with an elven queen. If it doesn't affect the play why have them?

Yet, there seems to be a huge feeling that these non-human races are sacred cows that are absolutely core to the D&D experience.
 

This does make me wonder why we have it though.

If it doesn't matter, why does it matter?

It just seems a lot of work sometimes to include playable races in a setting and make them interesting beyond the basic...Mountains- dwarves live here, forest = elves with an elven queen. If it doesn't affect the play why have them?

Yet, there seems to be a huge feeling that these non-human races are sacred cows that are absolutely core to the D&D experience.
Well, as much as I hate the term, it's not called an "elf game" for nothing.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
This does make me wonder why we have it though.

Because, apart from a few "race-haters", lots of players like the idea of non-human races to play with, even if it's not technically powerful or influential, because it's a standard trope of fantasy and people like characters from movies/shows/books.

It just seems a lot of work sometimes to include playable races in a setting and make them interesting beyond the basic...Mountains- dwarves live here, forest = elves with an elven queen. If it doesn't affect the play why have them?

Yet, there seems to be a huge feeling that these non-human races are sacred cows that are absolutely core to the D&D experience.

And if there is a huge feeling that they are core to the experience, they are not sacred cows. :p

In any case, I still fail to see how an experience without them would be richer and more varied because of it. They are just an additional possibility, and furthermore one that you can play to extremely varied degree. If you want to play only humans, the game already offers this.

But I suspect that there is a lot of hypocrisy at the core of it, because from what I read on the forums, people are extremely happy with Tasha because they can enjoy the technical benefits of some races (mountain dwarf, tortle, etc.) without feeling that they are gimping the perfect scores of their build.

So whether for technical reasons or for roleplaying ones, they are really part of the core.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top